Identity Crisis – Rebadged Cars

Rebadged or badge engineered cars have been common place on public roads for decades, with manufacturers and in some cases governments searching for ways to efficiently manage automotive production. In this article we take a look at four examples of rebadging that have been relevant to the Australian automotive landscape over recent years.

VF Holden Commodore SS – Chevrolet SS

Back in 2013 at Daytona Speedweek , a VF Commodore sporting Chevy badges was unveiled to the US public to a mostly positive reception. It’s wasn’t the first Commodore to be exported and rebadged oversees, however it will be the last. Since the late 90s, Commodores have been exported overseas in various guises. From the Chevrolet Lumina in the Middle East and South Africa, to the Omega in Brazil as well as Vauxhall and Pontiac variants in the UK and US respectively, the Commodore has been rebadged significantly over the years. The Chevrolet SS in question struggled sales-wise in the US, with the lack of a manual option drawing much criticism amongst the very automotive enthusiasts the car was intended to target. A shame really, that the Americans never truly had the chance to appreciate one of Australia’s most loved cars.

Nissan The Ute – Ford Falcon XF

The Ute was one of the simplest rebadge’s you are ever likely to see, with everything from the indicator stalk mounted horn to the grill and steering unmistakably Ford. Even under the Nissan logo on the front grill was a Ford oval shaped space. The Nissan Ute was sold as a result of the model sharing scheme known as the Button plan in the mid-late 80’s. The idea of the plan was to rationalise the Australian automotive industry by inducing car manufacturers into sharing the platforms of key cars.

Toyota Lexcen – VN Holden Commodore

Another rebadged model as a result of the Button plan was the Toyota Lexcen, which was named after Ben Lexcen, the designer of the American Cup winning ‘Australia II’ and its innovative keel design. Kind of ironic that a rebadged car, with little innovative design features, was named after a man who designed one of the most iconic innovations in Australian sporting history, isn’t it? Anyhow, the Lexcen was better received by the Australian public when compared to the Nissan/Ford of above and the Holden/Toyota model sharing scheme would last until 1997. Differences were mostly limited to the grill, badges and some minor interior changes.

 

Toyota 86 – Subaru BR-Z – Scion FR-S

Sold in Australia as the Toyota 86 and the Subaru BR-Z, and in the US at one point as the Scion FR-S, this rear-wheel drive bundle of fun is one of the more popular modern day badge swaps. Featuring design work and product planning from Toyota and engineering and production from Subaru, the 86 was Toyotas attempt at re-entering the ‘drivers car’ market, whilst the BR-Z was Subaru’s attempt at creating a rear-wheel drive to complement its felt of all wheel drive options. With a four-cylinder engine that whilst zippy won’t set the world on fire, the ‘Toyobaru’ has become a favourite amongst sports car enthusiasts looking for a solid ‘bang for your buck’ option.

 

Do you own one of these rebadged cars? Or maybe you own another rebadged ‘classic’. Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below

Sinful Conversions - Engine Conversions That Cause a Stir

In the automotive community, we’re no strangers to engine conversions. Whether it be a neat LS-swap or dyno warping Barra-swaps, we tip our hat to clean and well-engineered engine transplants. However, not all engine conversions make the automotive gods happy, some are downright riot-inducing, with enthusiasts from all corners kicking up a stink. In this article we will take a look at a handful of controversial engine conversions.

Ford Barra Powered HG Belmont

Searching for something a little different from the tonne of LS-swaps around these days, this owner decided to take the ever-popular Barra engine and slot it into the early 70’s Holden. With a sub-11 second quarter mile time the old “Holden” will towel up many popular sports cars, whilst still being used by its owner as a daily driver!

 

Skyline GTR Powered Torana

Dropping powerful engines in smaller cars has been a passion of many a person since the dawn of time. As automotive enthusiasts, we can’t help but look at a car, bike or boat and wonder what we can do to make this faster? Well, in the case of the LX Torana, dropping a twin turbocharged RB26 under the hood is sure to make the trip from A to B in quite a hurry! There are of course a few Holden enthusiasts who are none too happy with a Japanese heart beating in the Aussie legend.

 

LS1 Powered XY Falcon – XYYNOT

This XY Falcon will surely cause a stir amongst both Holden and Ford fans, with one of the most iconic Falcon’s receiving a Chevrolet heart. Featuring a Harrop blower, the cammed, near stock LS1 is producing a solid 458 rear wheel horsepower and is used throughout the Australian drifting circuit!

 

1967 Pontiac Firebird with Toyota Prius Hybrid System

Coming completely out of left field is this Prius-powered 1967 Pontiac Firebird. Enough to make any rev-head cringe just a little bit, this engineering marvel has set the owner back just over $10,000US to date and is expected to be on the road by 2019.

 

LS1 powered Porsche 911 

Porsche fans – turn away now! Replacing the iconic flat six in the rear of this 1986 911 is the tried and true LS1, resulting in a horsepower gain of over 170hp! From a purely performance point of view, when you take into consideration other upgrades including wheels, tyres and suspension, this Porsche is a bit of a weapon. However, the purists still cringe at the thought of anything other than the flat six gracing its engine bay.

Have you heard of any crazy engine swaps that make purists cringe? Or maybe you’re in the process of your own engine swap? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below.

Jason White Wins Sixth Targa Tasmania

Jason White and his co-driver and uncle John White have taken out the 2017 Targa Tasmania for the sixth time, negotiating the notoriously challenging course in their Dodge Viper ACR Extreme. The pair was some 34 seconds faster than second place finisher Michael Prichard and co-driver Gary Mourant (Dodge Viper ACR). The Viper proved to be an impressive machine on the tight Targa course, with the 8.4litre V10 blasting its way around the luscious Tasmanian countryside to become the first American car to take out the prestigious event. However, as impressive as the top two teams were, naturally our attention moves to the classic cars that once again set the tarmac alight.

When you run your eyes down the Top 10 outright finishes, the usual suspects appear; Vipers, Porsche GT3’s, a Nissan GTR and a BMW M3. However, slotted into 9th outright, something a little more surprising; a 1970 Datsun 240Z driven by John Siddins and co-driven by Gina Siddins. Not only was Siddins’ time good enough for an impressive outright finish, it was enough to win the Shannons GT class by over 9 minutes over a score of incredible classics including Craig Haysman’s 1979 Triumph TR7 V8.

Taking out the Shannons Classics class was Peter Ullrich and co-driver Sari Ullrich in their 1963 Jensen CV8 by an impressive 6 minute and 18 second margin over a tight 2nd place battle between an Italian masterpiece and an Australian icon. Eventually, it was David Gilliver and his 1979 Ferrari 308 GTS that were able to take home the chocolates over Richard Woodward and his 1969 Holden Monaro GTS by only 15 seconds.

A category of some interest to us is the TSD Trophy class, in which competitors aim to achieve a set average speed without breaking 130km/h, thus opening up the class to a wide array of vehicles. Taking out the class for the second year in a row were brothers Darryl and Peter Marshall in their Ford Falcon Ute ahead of Christopher Waldock and Christine Kirby in their 2016 Jaguar F-Type as well as Peter Lucas and Angela Coradine and their stunning 1984 Porsche Carrera.

After another successful running, the Targa Tasmania continues to go from strength to strength, and at Rare Spares we look forward to an even bigger year next year!

If you could race in the Targa, what would be your weapon of choice? Head over to the comments section on the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know!

Party up front, Business at the back – The best of Holden Performance Utes

As the production of Australian cars winds up, we will continue to take a look at some of the locally built cars that will be fondly remembered by the Aussie motoring community. In this installment, we look back on a few of the most memorable Holden performance Utes; cars that took business and mixed it with pleasure.

Although Ford is generally credited with designing the world’s first Ute in Australia with the Coupe Utility in 1934, Holden soon joined the world of Ute’s with their 48-215 (FX) Utility in 1951.

Designed as workhorses for Australian farmers and tradesmen, the humble Ute continued to evolve with handling and power improvements, however was never sold or intended to be a performance based vehicle. 

This all changed for Holden at the 1990 Sydney Motor Show, when Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) unveiled the VG HSV Maloo Ute.  Quickly becoming the star of the show the ‘Maloo’ (Aboriginal word for ‘thunder’) was powered by a 5.0-litre V8 engine with 180kW/400Nm and only available in Alpine White and Maranello Red to enhance its exclusivity. You don’t see many of these driving around today!

 Although Holden had been fitting V8’s to their Ute’s for many years, it was in 2001, with the release of the VU Series, that Holden upped the game with their own true performance model, being the VU SS Ute.  Based on an all new platform, the Holden team spent a huge amount of time optimizing the Ute for improved aerodynamics and reduced wind noise, and the result is a very smooth, flowing exterior design.  The VU Ute was fitted with a 225kw Chevrolet 5.7L Gen 3 LS1 Engine placed between the strut towers as well as what was a first in a Ute at the time, independent rear suspension. This added to the 17” alloys, sports seats and sports suspension. What did they cost at the time? $36,490.

 

HSV stepped up the game to another level with the VZ Maloo R8. A far more aggressive exterior design clearly differentiated the HSV enhanced Ute from the Holden performance variants. Fitted with the then new 6.0 litre LS2 V8 Engine, the VZ series also boasted 19” wheels and traction control.

In 2006, Aussie motorsport legend Mark Skaife set a world record with the VZ Maloo, clocking 271.44km/h on a closed road in South Australia and becoming the “World’s Fastest Production Pickup/Utility”.

 

As part of Holden’s continued marketing drive around the performance angle of its ever popular Ute range, a new marketing campaign was needed to launch the new VF SS V Redline Ute.  Holden decided to ship the Ute to one of the world’s most famous testing grounds, Germany’s 20.8km long Nordschleife. With high hopes and a vehicle test engineer behind the wheel, the SS clocked a blistering 8:19.47 around the 170 turn track, becoming the fastest Utility to do so. There was no official record given there was no ‘utility class’ but regardless, the time was an impressive achievement.

 

The Holden Performance Ute collection wouldn’t be complete without the final variant of the iconic Aussie vehicle. Enter the HSV GTSR Maloo. HSV decided to honour the performance Ute by sending it out with a bang and a model truly representative of performance in every sense of the word. Power was well and truly taken care of with the 435kw Supercharged LSA 6.2L V8 engine. A tuned HSV performance suspension package plus numerous electronic aids takes care of handling while stopping power is handled by the massive 6 piston calipers and two piece discs. 20” wheels and an aggressive styling package complete the head turning aesthetics.

Although it is a sad day to see the traditional Aussie Ute finish production, we will always have the memories of such an Aussie institution.

Vacation Nation - Looking Back at the Humble Holden Vacationer

As Aussie as thongs, meat pies and kangaroo’s, the humble road trip is an Aussie institution. Most of us will remember those drives in the back of the car as the family headed North, South, East or West to that holiday home, camp site or Uncle’s place somewhere up the road. No doubt those fond memories were re-created with the next generation, this time with you in the front seats!

With such a treasured pastime as the road trip, Holden were in tune with this fact, and playing to the feelings of freedom and good vibes of those holidays, launched specific ‘Vacationer’ models. This up-spec’d model would appeal to those looking at a special model that could make the long hauls across our vast nation somewhat more comfortable.

In 1972 the Holden HQ Kingswood Vacationer model was released. And what a beauty she was. Premium additions like a luxury centre arm rest and door to door carpets, chrome wheel trims and a selection of two-tone colour options, joined the 202 engine and tri-matic automatic gearbox with disc brakes.

The Vacationer model made appearances throughout the majority of the subsequent Holden line-up, culminating in the last appearance of the vacationer model in 1995 when Holden released the VS series. At the time of release, the VS Commodore Vacationer was $30,370 which in today’s money is $50,951.

What did you get standard for your money when ordering a new Vacationer in 1995? Air conditioning, power door mirrors, remote (keyless) central locking, power steering, power windows all-round, plus the all-important cruise control to gobble up those highway miles.

While we don’t think Holden will revive the Vacationer model any time soon, it was an interesting model that for many years was a reflection of the habits of a vacation nation!

Were you one of the many children who spent countless hours’ road tripping in the back of a vacationer? Or maybe you still own a Vacationer? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below!